Ferguson close to signing Cruyff

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The Independent Online

Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, flew to Barcelona yesterday to set up the surprise pounds 1.5m signing of the unhappy Dutch international, Jordi Cruyff.

Ferguson hopes to do a quick deal with his old friend Bobby Robson, the new chief at the Nou Camp, for the versatile young attacker whose father, Johan, was sacked by the club at the end of last season. The blond Cruyff Jnr can play right or left wing or even through the middle and would strengthen the United squad for the Champions' League campaign if he arrives, as expected, this week.

Ferguson flew to Barcelona to try to tie up the deal swiftly and Robson's club will allow Cruyff to go quite cheaply by today's standards. The Dutchman has two years of his contract left and United will compensate Barcelona for that and offer the player at least a three-year deal at Old Trafford.

The signing is a big surprise, with Ferguson strongly linked with Cruyff's team-mate Miguel Angel Nadal, but the Dutchman's ability and value proved too much for Ferguson to resist.

Elsewhere the influx of foreign talent continued, with Tottenham signing the Danish international Allan Nielsen from Brondby for pounds 1.65m. Nielsen played for Denmark in Euro 96 and the 25-year-old midfielder, who has signed a four-year contract, is Spurs' first major signing of the close season.

Their manager, Gerry Francis, said: "I tried to sign him last season but Brondby were having such a successful run in the Uefa Cup, during which they beat Liverpool."

Patrik Berger's move from Borussia Dortmund to Liverpool is still on and could be finalised in the next few days. The German champions have agreed to listen to Liverpool's offer of over pounds 3m for the Czech playmaker and are prepared to enter careful negotiations.

Nigel Martyn, the former England goalkeeper, is set to make his Everton debut in this weekend's John Moores tournament - if the Everton manager, Joe Royle, can negotiate a transfer fee with Crystal Palace. They are believed to have bid around pounds 1.5m, but Ron Noades, the Palace chairman, is insisting on a fee which is likely to be double that.

Martyn's signature could spell the end of Neville Southall's career at Goodison Park. The Welsh goalkeeper's new deal includes a clause which enables him to leave at a month's notice if a successor was signed.

Peter Reid, a former teammate of Southall's at Everton and now manager of Sunderland, is making a move for striker Joel Tiehi, the captain of the Ivory Coast national side, who is currently with the French club Martigues.

Gianluca Vialli, the former Juventus player, may make his long-awaited debut for Chelsea alongside his player-manager, Ruud Gullit, at Plymouth tonight. Vialli sat on the bench as a spectator while Chelsea lost 2- 1 at Exeter on Monday.

Scott Oakes, the Luton midfield player, is set to become Sheffield Wednesday's third signing of the summer after a trial at Hillsborough. The Wednesday manager, David Pleat, knows the 23-year-old well from his spell in charge at Luton and is expected to pay in the region of pounds 700,000 for the player.

Birmingham City's manager, Trevor Francis, has completed the signing of the Blackburn Rovers striker Mike Newell for a fee of pounds 750,000.

Alan Curbishley, the Charlton manager, is set to sign the Barnsley midfielder Brendan O'Connell for pounds 125,000. O'Connell, 29, has been at Oakwell for the past six years.

Liam Brady, the former Arsenal midfield player, has been linked with a return to Highbury to take up a lucrative new post. Brady is believed to be top of the short list as head of Arsenal's youth development programme.

Barry Town created Welsh football history in Latvia last night when they claimed a 2-1 victory over Dinaburg Daugavpils in the second leg of their Uefa Cup preliminary round tie. Their win followed a 0-0 draw in the first leg at Jenner Park last week and means that they become the first League of Wales club to progress beyond the opening round of any European club competition. Two former Cardiff City players, Chris Pike and Terry Evans, scored the Barry goals.